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Anita Grandke, "Does the Working Woman Destroy her Family?" (June 11, 1960)

This article from the SED mouthpiece Neues Deutschland praised the ideal of the “socialist family” in which both spouses created the basis for a fulfilling family life through equal participation in work life. The upbringing of children “by society” in collective institutions outside of the home was not seen as a problem; rather, because of the professional care the children received there, it was seen as positive. According to the article, it increased equality of opportunity among the children.

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Does the Working Woman Destroy her Family?

In the discussion of the question “Who is a better mother to her children?,” vocational work by the wife and mother has loomed large. Yet there are still a few questions in particular that require a more detailed answer. Mrs. Renate gave me a few letters from female readers in which, for example, the opinion was voiced that the working life of the wife and mother, along with the raising of children in the kindergarten or Schulhort [organized after-school care], threatened, indeed, destroyed the family. Responding to these views means saying something about the family in socialist society.

Society and Family

While the family has not changed in its outward form – a union between husband and wife and their children – for centuries, it depends, in terms of its content, its survival, and its happiness, on the society to which it belongs. We are acquainted with the bourgeois family, which is entirely dominated by capital and its concerns. Here, people enter into “marriages of convenience,” and relationships between parents and children, whose upbringing is largely entrusted to paid persons unrelated to them, are centered on the future inheritance.

By contrast, the proletarian family in capitalism has a good, moral foundation: the mutual love between the spouses. But it is exposed to considerable pressures. Joblessness, crises, the housing shortage are tearing at it. How terrible is child labor, how great the danger that the children will fall into bad ways because they are left to their own devices, while the mother must help secure their livelihood. How difficult it is for the worker to lead his child along the right path in the face of lies and poisoning by school, films, and so on. And let us not forget the immeasurable misery that the war, this monster of capitalist society, brought upon our families.

The family can truly flourish only in the socialist society. It banishes exploitation, egoism, joblessness, crises, and war. It creates the foundation for a happy family life. That is why participation in the task of building up socialism, why working in a job is the most valuable thing that we – also as mothers – can do for our family and the future of our children. Working, as many readers have written so correctly, means fighting for the peace, happiness, and security of our family. Work does not destroy the family, but creates for it the broad, golden foundation.

When both Parents Work

Mrs. M. Fischer from Neustadt (Orla) now asks: Do we not push family upbringing into the background when we support both parents working at a job? No, that is not the case. The family plays a large part in raising the new socialist person. Here, the children get their first impressions and, above all, learn from the example of their parents. The family as a small collective can develop and strengthen a person’s traits and the characteristics that determine his behavior toward society in socialism: mutual respect, loyalty, comradeship, and, most of all, a sense of responsibility toward society.

However, the family can fulfill this important social task far better if both parents, father and mother, are part of the workforce. Why? Family life is being borne by two individuals who know that they are giving their best every day for the building up of socialism, and thus for the preservation of peace and the future of their children. They are fulfilled by their work. They work to better themselves and continue their education. They carry the problems of work into the family with the desire of consulting each other.

The harmony that is gained thereby, the deeper substance of the marriage, is reflected back upon the children. To them, it is not just the father who sets an example, but equally the mother, through her work, through the responsibility she bears, through the struggles she endures, and through the zeal with which she works to improve herself. The mother, in turn, understands the children better, because she knows what she must prepare them for, so that they may complete what she, too, has begun with her work. To be sure, the mother spends less time with her children than if she were working at home. But through her outside work she provides the precondition for a deeper and more substantive family life that has a much more beneficial effect on the development of the children.

A few female readers write that the working life of the mother brings with it a certain additional burden for both spouses. That is still true today, and both spouses must adjust to that. That doesn’t always happen right away, and it is something that needs to be learned with good will – especially by the husband. Equally important is the comment by many mothers that parents must find time for their children in the evening, on weekends, and during vacation. Enteprises and social organizations must not forget this when dividing up their tasks.

The strain that the wife’s outside work often still brings for both spouses will be gradually eliminated with the further building up of socialism, and it would be profoundly wrong to present it as an argument against the employment of the wife and mother. The benefit that her work brings to the family is a thousand times greater.

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